Mythology Mondays: The Aegis

Welcome back to Mythology Mondays, where I highlight a different Greek myth or an aspect of mythology that has influenced the Turning Creek series. The first book, Lightning in the Dark, is out now. The second book, Storm in the Mountains, will be out in June.

The aegis is sometimes called the breastplate of Zeus and sometimes referred to as the shield of Zeus. The Aegis was made up of four spirits who were the arm guards of Zeus.

“Across her [Athena’s] shoulders she threw the betasselled, terrible aigis (aegis), all about which Phobos (Terror) hangs like a garland, and Eris (Hatred) is there, and Alke (Battle Strength), and heart-freezing Ioke (Onslaught) and thereon is set the head of the grim gigantic Gorgo (Gorgon), a thing of fear and horror, portent of Zeus of the aigis.” Homer, Iliad 5. 738 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.)

Phobos was the male personification of fear. He was the son of Ares and Aphrodite.

Eris was the female spirit goddess of  strife. She had such a malignant personality that she was the only goddess not invited to  the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. When she turned up anyway, she started a feud that led to the Trojan War.

Alke was the female personification of strength. Ioke was the female personification of pursuit. Both of these spirits are associated with the battle spirits known as the Makhai.

In my mind, these spirits of war and strife are like the Christian version of the Four Horseman of the apocalypse. If they show up, you better hope you have a paddle and a boat to get through that flood of unpleasantness headed your way.

A statue in the  Church of San Vitale of the Four Horseman. Photo by  Cheryl Cook.
A statue in the Church of San Vitale of the Four Horseman. Photo by Cheryl Cook.